Batman Returns and Supergirl Revamps

Don’t worry, folks — we’re not disrupting our schedule in our second week. Greg Hatcher’s column will be up later today. In the meantime, I thought I’d give you a morning bonus with some spoiler-free reviews of Monday night’s Fathom Events screening of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and the second season premiere of Supergirl on the CW.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Return of the Caped Crusaders brings Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar back to their roles of Batman, Robin, and Catwoman for an all-new adventure in the style of the classic 1960s show. And for the most part, it’s a smashing success.

Batman Robin

The initial premise is the same one as 1966 Batman movie: the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman have all teamed up to menace Gotham City, but the plot quickly takes some twists and turns that would have been impossible 50 years ago. And there’s lot of fun to be had along the way.

The character designs are remarkably faithful to the show and the animation is very fluid. And the plot is episodic enough that it can easily be broken up (the Adam West show was always best in small doses).

Bruce Dick BatpolesSure, there are a few missteps — the feature doesn’t open with a William Dozier-like narrator, there’s no “Gotham City 14 Miles” sign outside the Batcave, and the animators unfortunately missed the joke that Bruce’s Batpole is slightly larger than Dick’s — but they’re all of the nitpicking variety. The show’s other tropes are present and accounted for: the Batfights, the deathtraps, the Dynamic Duo’s so-square-they’re-cool personalities — even the Batusi makes an appearance. There are cameos galore and a few wicked in-jokes, including one directed at the Chris Nolan Batman movies that made me laugh out loud.

As you might expect, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman has the largest role of the villains. The new voice cast acquits itself very well. Jeff Bergman is so good as the Joker that you forget he’s not Caesar Romero, and “Adam West” singer Wally Wingert absolutely nails Frank Gorshin’s Riddler laugh. William Salyers’ Penguin is a bit more Ted Knight than Burgess Meredith, but not so much as to be distracting. Steven Weber and Thomas Lennon do a nice job voicing Alfred and Chief O’Hara, respectively. And it’s certainly fun to hear West, Ward, and Newmar reprise their roles. If they sound less energetic than they did in their 60s’ heyday — well, it has been 50 years after all.

Bat Villains

Bottom line: If you like the ’66 Batman show, you’ll like this. It’s a fitting tribute and a fun reunion for the 50th Anniversary.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is available on Digital HD today, Oct. 11th, and will be released on BluRay Nov. 1st. A sequel has already been announced with William Shatner as Two-Face, and I look forward to seeing it. If anyone can figure out how to chew scenery in animated form, it’ll be Shatner and West.

Supergirl S2 Premiere: “The Adventures of Supergirl”

While I was a bit mixed on the first season of Supergirl, the perfect casting of Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl overcomes most of the show’s flaws. Benoist has everything you need to play an optimistic superheroine — she’s comfortable in the costume, she can play upbeat without being sappy, and her smile lights up a room. Even when I dislike an episode, I always like her, so I really want to see the show become the best it could be.

Supergirl Superman

I’m happy to report that the show is improving on all fronts. The big news for the season two premiere is Tyler Hoechlin as Superman, and he’s great in the role. Hoechlin and Benoist have an immediate, charming rapport; you really believe that they have a shared history. Supergirl‘s producers are giving us a Superman in stark contrast to the Zack Snyder version — this a guy who smiles, shakes hands, winks, and says “lickedy-split” without irony. And to make it even more obvious, they give 1978’s Superman the Movie three or four different shout-outs. They do everything short of running a scroll along the bottom of the screen reading, “Yes, this IS your father’s Superman,” and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. I just wish that he could be a bit buffer than Jimmy Olsen.

Clark Kara

But there’s more to Supergirl‘s premiere than just Superman. It also sets up the series’ new status quo with a light touch. Kara’s career, love life, the DEO’s headquarters and personnel are all in a new place by the end of the hour, with only the romantic subplot feeling contrived. Oh, and they also introduce Lena Luthor, John Corben, and the mystery of that spaceship occupant from the season one finale. If all of season two is this assured in its storytelling, we’re in for a great year. For a show that was on the bubble for me last season, it’s a strong contender for “Most Improved.”

Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8pm EST on the CW, and is also available On Demand. Season one is available on Netflix.

8 Comments

  1. Agreed on the Supergirl front! I am surprised how much I liked it, considering the mixed feelings I had going in.

    Part of me couldn’t help but be excited to see a potentially brighter and more positive interpretation of Superman after the grimdark cinematic version we’ve been offered as of late, but a bigger part of me worried that Superman was going to upstage Supergirl on her own show.

    They did a phenomenal job of balancing them out, without weakening either character. Every effort Superman exerts is in support of Supergirl, in a way that makes their relationship and team-up seem more realistic and genuine.

    Great article!

  2. Edo Bosnar

    I’ve seen neither of these things, but I’m happy that both exist. I know that somehow, some day, I will definitely get around to watching those new animated Batman features in particular.

    With Supergirl, even though all I’ve seen are trailers and clips thus far, everything I have seen has me smiling and nodding in approval. It seems to really capture the essence of what the DC Universe heroes should be like (i.e., *not* dark, grim and depressing). Although I tend to agree with you that it’s somehow wrong for Jimmy Olsen to be a) buffer, b) taller, apparently and c) better-looking (to be quite frank) than Supes.

  3. Le Messor

    Those both sound really good. I’ve seen a clip of the Supergirl / Superman team-up and it left me smiling.

    Shatner as Two-Face – I’m just checking up on something I’ve thought for a long time, but Two-Face was never on the West TV show, was he?

  4. Jeff Nettleton

    Saw the trailer for Batman on the site-that-shall-not-be-named and thought Adam West sounded rather tired (almost Grandpa Simpson-like); but, it still sounded cool. Glad to hear that it is. I also consider it a plus not to have Lou Scheimer annoying us with Batman, as in the previous animated West and Ward Batman, though it is too bad that both Yvonne Craig and Jane Webb are gone, so we can’t delight to their Batgirl.

    I’ve only seen part of an episode of Supergirl; but, Melissa Benoist is in the pantheon of Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter; inhabiting the role. I especially enjoy the fact that young girls have embraced her as their generation’s superheroine. It’s great that the get someone who isn’t running around in a skimpy outfit and who exudes a positivity. In pictures and clips I’ve seen with her, with young fans, she is terrific.

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